Everything’s bigger in Texas, so they say. However, Texas won’t be able to keep its bragging rights as a leader in technology unless it devotes more resources toward educating its students in computer science (CS). Did you know that only 2% of Texas high school graduates complete a CS course, even though 60% of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs are computing jobs? In fact, CS was the only STEM field to see a decrease in both students taking courses in high school and earning baccalaureate degrees in the first ten years of this decade. Why? After much research, Carol Fletcher, PhD., The University of Texas Center for STEM Education deputy director, discovered that a primary driver to the problem was a lack of qualified and certified CS teachers. “With the challenges Texas faces in preparing students for the high-wage, high-demand jobs of the future, something needed to change,” said Fletcher. “As a result, the WeTeach_CS program was created at UT Austin’s Center for STEM Education to address the K-12 CS shortfall in Texas.”

Through a grant from Texas Education Agency (TEA) to UT Austin’s Texas Regional Collaboratives (TRC), along with private support from AT&T, Oracle Academy, and 100Kin10, the WeTeach_CS program was recently launched offering resources to help K-12 educators statewide to improve their CS knowledge and skills. The components include both face-to- face and online professional development (PD) to assist educators to become CS certified, PD focused on building technical and instructional skills for teachers, as well as a new website (weteachcs.org) providing information and guidance for teachers and schools who are starting to develop a CS program in their schools.

Already, the WeTeach_CS program has demonstrated a tremendous impact:

  • Trained 1,354 Texas educators, representing 688 schools and 337 public, private, and charter school districts in CS, computational thinking, coding, and programming.
  • Developed and deployed a free, six-week, massive open online course (MOOC) to support Texas educators seeking Grades 8-12 CS certification. TRC piloted the course in summer of 2016 with the goal of enrolling 200 teachers. The initial enrollment was 1,093 with approximately 25% of enrollees completing the course with a grade of 80% or above.
  • Supported 100 Texas educators who became newly certificated to teach high school CS courses.
  • Connected more than 800 Texas educators to the new WeTeach_CS blog (http://www.weteachcs.org/blog/) to network online with other CS educators and stay up-to- date on PD opportunities, policy updates, teaching resources, and student camps and competitions.
  • Launched seven new CS Regional Collaboratives at UT Austin, UT Dallas, Texas A&M, UT Tyler, Rice University, Region 1 Education Service Center (ESC) in the Rio Grande Valley and Region 18 ESC in West Texas.
  • Organized the inaugural WeTeach_CS Summit, June 7-9, 2016, providing professional development to over 200 educators, K-12, focused on building the CS Education Community, providing professional development, and connecting Texas educators with state and national leaders and resources to teach CS and computational thinking.
  • Organized the first CS Principles Mini-Conference (http://www.thetrc.org/cs-principles-mini- conference which connected Texas educators with representatives from the College Board, The University of California Berkeley, Code.org, Mobile CSP, UTeachCS – Thriving in Our Digital World, and Alabama’s CS4HS to educate them about free curriculum available to teach the new AP CS Principles course.
  • Leveraged partnerships with corporate and philanthropic leaders like Oracle Academy, AT&T, Google, Microsoft, and 100Kin10 to maximize the Texas Education Agency investment in CS education and expand services to hundreds more teachers.

Investing in teachers is the most effective way to ensure every child, in every district, has access to the most advanced, engaging CS experiences possible. Preparing tomorrow’s technology leaders today takes commitment by educators, policy makers and communities to find a way to make CS instruction integral to core curriculum. Building capacity for CS, coding, programming and computational thinking in K-12 classrooms assures that Texas will remain the leader in the national “CS for All” movement. The multi-faceted WeTeach_CS program is the bold kick-start to make that goal a reality.

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